- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

Northern exposure

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson intends to confront congressional complaints about his country’s immigration laws by bringing Canadian officials to Washington to answer the charges.

Mr. Wilson is planning to hold direct talks with critics such as Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The New York Republican told CNN this weekend that al Qaeda terrorists are hiding in Canada because of its “very liberal immigration laws.”

“Americans should be very concerned because Canada is our northern neighbor, and there’s a large al Qaeda presence in Canada,” he said.

“I think it’s a disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada because of their very liberal immigration laws, because of how political asylum is granted so easily, and also the previous government, quite frankly, in Canada I don’t think was tough enough, as far as going after terrorism.”

Mr. Wilson appeared on Sunday’s “Late Edition” to discuss the weekend arrests of 17 men in Canada suspected of plotting widespread Islamic terrorist attacks.

He insisted that the new Conservative government is tough not only on terrorism, but also on illegal entry.

“I disagree with what the chairman has said,” Mr. Wilson replied when asked about Mr. King’s accusations.

“I think that our immigration laws as they are implemented are very close in the outcomes as the United States’ immigration laws. We take very seriously these issues of terrorism, as demonstrated by this very successful exercise that was completed on Friday night, Saturday morning,” he said, referring to the arrests.

Mr. Wilson said Canadian immigration officials will visit Washington later this month to “respond specifically to the allegations that Congressman King has said.”

“We disagree with him, but the only way that we address this is by facts, head-on, from the people who are responsible for those parts of our policy,” he said.

At 3,000 miles, the United States has a longer border with Canada than with Mexico, where most of the U.S. immigration debate has been focused. Thousands of Americans and Canadians cross the border daily on business trips, vacations or personal visits. A truck crosses the border every two seconds, and the two countries do $2 billion in trade a day.

Afghan withdrawal

The United States is preparing to reduce its forces in Afghanistan by about 3,000 troops, the U.S. ambassador told reporters yesterday in that country’s capital, Kabul.

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann said the current troop strength of about 23,000 will be cut later this month, after U.S. forces hand over control of the southern quarter of the nation to a NATO-led contingent.

“Right now, I would estimate that U.S. forces will remain in around the 20,000 level,” he said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is commanding troops in the north and west of the country. It is scheduled to take over control of the eastern quarter of Afghanistan later this year.

The U.S.-led coalition of about 40 nations has been in Afghanistan since 2001, after toppling the brutal Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

Mr. Neumann also praised the Afghan government for replacing senior police officers held responsible for failing to prevent widespread rioting last week.

“The new police list, I think, will remove a number of officials who ought to be removed,” Mr. Neumann said.

President Hamid Karzai ordered the removal of more than 80 precinct chiefs and department heads after a breakdown of police authority during the May 30 riot that followed a fatal accident involving a U.S. military truck. Army officials said the brakes apparently failed, causing the truck to slam into other vehicles and killing at least five persons.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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